GUEST : ‘Homosexuality & Hermenuetics’ by Danny Martin

Welcome to our first ever GUEST post on The Allowed. Every now and then we’ll get another writer in to take on a topic that’s been on their mind. This time it’s Danny Martin writing about Homosexuality and the Bible. 

Based out of a bunker in the Yorkshire Dales, Danny Martin writes both poetry and prose that has been described by his Mum as ‘not bad’. Picking at the seams of evangelical Christianity, he dreams of being part of a movement that can fashion a new garment, one that looks a lot more like Jesus and a lot less like Donald Trump. A garment that the whole world can wear. You can find him online at www.lorddaniel.com 

Enjoy! 

————————

1. That Ship Has Sailed

Homosexuality has, it seems, become a weird culture-defining issue within the Christian world. It is an issue that seems to spark furious discussion on both sides of the argument, but due to both lack of study and inherent religious conditioning the discussion never actually resolves anything.

I write this post a) to provide a partial narrative for homosexuality in the bible, and b) because if I hear another Christian saying the words ‘Well I’m just following what the Bible says’, I may vomit in my own mouth.

Let’s be clear: NO, you are not just following what the Bible says; you are following your interpretation of a translation of a translation of a collection of books written thousands of years ago birthed from a society entrenched in patriarchy and reflective of a people desperately searching for answers to ‘life’ and for a God who sent the invites and arranged the venue but can often seem like he is missing from the party. If you pick up this collection of books, read it and just do what it says then you may as well find another blog (try this one) as I doubt my rhetoric will prove remedy for your ailment.

You probably would have stood with the Christians who trumpeted the credo of the right to own slaves and you definitely would have sided with the majority of the Church who as little as 10 years ago (or even now if you are Mark Driscoll) believe that women have no right to preach from the pulpit. 

Based on a few lines of writing,

from two thousand years ago,

in a different culture.

Whilst addressing a small church gathering in America, Rob Bell (who authored Velvet Elvis, my no.1 all-time favourite Christian book) was asked a question about his stance on homosexuality, and his rather beautiful reply ended with:

‘I think that ship has sailed.’

Oh Rob how I do love you. 

Christians, can we please for the love of humanity wave the ship goodbye and not stay clinging to the rudder scared of what may happen if we let go.

THAT SHIP HAS SAILED.

Once we have relinquished control, we have some serious repenting to do. The Christian community has committed a litany of sins against the LGBT community, claiming we are all loving and ultimately ‘liberating’ them from themselves. Chanting slogans like ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’, which is a fancy Christian-ese mantra which translates to ‘you are wrong, and will burn in hell, but here is a cup of tea and a donut you God-angering rascal.’

But until the time comes (and it will come) when we can all look back on this issue and realise what a brood of vipers we have all been, all I can do is nail my colours to the mast and fight to subvert the norm.

Jesus talks about the fact he is sent for everyone; he talks about giving everything we have to the poor and trusting him, he talks about the meek inheriting the kingdom of God, he talks about our duty to reach out to people in need, to clothe, to feed, to water, to visit people in the prisons and hospitals. He talks about his disdain for the religious, he spends his time chilling with prostitutes and tax collectors and people he knew would ultimately betray him.

He talks about the fact we need to love people, in fact he talks about that…

a lot.

Not once, in all of the recounted words of our Saviour Jesus Christ do we find him talking about homosexuality.

Which is curious, given the exclusive position we seem to have given the subject. Could it be that this issue was irrelevant for Jesus?

Had the ship already sailed?

Was the ship ever anchored to shore?

———————

2. Biblical Hermeneutics

Much of the long obsession with homosexuality and the church begins with a perception about what the Bible says about the practice of it, and therefore it is necessary to attempt to engage with that before we fight for the future.

In 1999, Professor Walter Wink, of Auburn Theological seminary in New York wrote a seminal article on the issue titled ‘Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality’ which can be found here. What I will attempt to do is distil down Wink’s argument by breaking down the scriptural references to homosexual practice into manageable chunks;

The Ignorable

Any reference, Wink argues, to Sodom and The Sodomites behaviour in the Old and New Testament must be instantly removed from the equation, as they all relate to the practice of homosexual rape that was prevalent in culture at the time. It was a process of humiliation and emasculation and far removed from the genuine love we see in homosexual relationships today. Many scholars claim this also supports the ghastly story in Genesis 19, where Lot gives his daughters over to the guards rather than letting them in to rape the two male angels he was harbouring.

The Unexplainable

I will quote Wink directly here, as I need not add to his thoughts;

‘Several other texts are ambiguous. It is not clear whether I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10 refer to the “passive” and “active” partners in homosexual relationships, or to homosexual and heterosexual male prostitutes.’

In short, it is unclear whether the issue is homosexuality alone, or promiscuity and “sex-for-hire.” Even if it is homosexuality, this is Paul speaking, in 1AD; we have to contextualise.

The Explainable

Once we have eliminated these verses, the next for the attempted cull are verses which unanimously condemn homosexual behaviour. But we have to read deeper than just throwing the quote out from a platform.

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are the most quoted, the most fervent, but thankfully the easiest to cast aside. Both of these verses call sex between two men as ‘an abomination.’ 20:13 reads, ‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.’

The first thing you note is none of these verses condemn female same-sex relations and practice, and the reason we can despatch these two verses explains why. When the texts were written, long before scientists began to fully understand the detail of conception, it was believed that men’s semen alone carried the complete human; the ovaries were absent and the womb of a woman was merely a space to incubate the new life.  Therefore, as a tribe struggling to repopulate, any spilt semen (via either masturbation or homosexual act) was akin to abortion or murder, strictly forbidden, and any perversion sentenced by death.

The final verse to wrestle with is Romans 1:26-27; a favourite verse for many evangelicals to pull out as they favour and trust the words of Paul over the OT. Whilst I concede here that these verses are unequivocal in their strong condemnation of sexual practices for both males and females, what is important is that we have a duty to contextualise Paul’s words.

‘For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.’ – Romans 1:26-27

Paul was, Wink notes, totally blind to the ‘distinction between sexual orientation, over which one has apparently very little choice, and sexual behaviour.’  In other words, if a man would choose to have relations with another man, it would be totally contrary to their default heterosexual nature. God ‘gives them up’ to relations with each other as a punishment for sin.

If we consider this through modern eyes, given the advancement in psychosexual studies we should (I say should as there are people who still deny this, just as they deny the earth is more than 8000 years old) universally accept that people are born into homosexual orientation in the same way the majority are born into heterosexuality. Paul is almost certainly condemning lust here, rather than a genuine relationship founded on love, trust, friendship and all the things that make up a union.

In summary of this part, many scriptures in the Old Testament have to be understood in the culture they were written into, and cannot just be excavated to fit our world now. The New Testament writings of Paul must be framed by the advancements in science that have since shaped our understanding of sexuality.

When I read the Bible, I consider it far from condemning of same-sex relationships; and again, Jesus never mentioned it, and he is the way, the truth and the life.

—————-

3. The future

If you will allow me, I will predict something. Like a foreshadower, a prophet, or just someone who can recognise recurrent patterns in evangelical Christianity having being cloistered in its tunic for over 30 years.

20 years from now, the ship will have properly sailed. Churches in the UK, even the mega ones, will cast aside the hollow notions of superiority and wholeheartedly be embracive of people living a homosexual lifestyle.

Only then can we love deeper,

harder

and longer.

Only then can we all get on with doing the things Jesus instructed us to do and reach out to this broken, battered planet.

This is my dream, and one I will fight for.

I will fight hard. 

Until that time, if I have to remain a lone voice in the wilderness on this topic, I will. But why don’t you come join me?

Find more from Danny Martin at www.lorddaniel.com

logonowriting

Comments : The Allowed is a safe space for people of all backgrounds who are wrestling with faith and doubt; many of whom may have had negative or traumatic religious experiences. Please be respectful and kind in any comments you make.

3 Comments

  1. Simon Hammond
    November 30, 2015
    Reply

    Good piece Danny, I’m currently doing my Doctrate research on this very issue (ish). I agree the ship may have sailed but people still need help navigating the seas. As always there are those who would rather throw themselves overboard if that’s the way the ship is going.
    I would question your assertion that all the scientific community accept that sexual orientation is a given at birth ? My own studies show that there is still no unanimous opinion. –
    Secondly should the church allow society to determine the cultural norms or should we stand counter cultural?
    Thirdly there is the question of Gen 1-3 the nature and process of human procreation.
    A certain College/academy I used to be involved with were/are taught that gender is a given at birth – sexual orientation is a choice.
    I am slowly picking my way through but it’s not an easy journey. I am amazed at the often uneducated hurtful response from the church towards the LGBT community.

    For me the question was thrown into sharp relief when a young gay friend of ours got engaged and Pat asked me if I would be willing to take the wedding ? I guess that’s why I’m a practical theologian.
    I love your heart in this. Thanks for being so open and honest.
    Hope we can catch up over a coffee soon.

    • Danny
      December 1, 2015
      Reply

      Hi Simon!

      Thanks for the response, would absolutely love a catch-up over coffee, let’s try make that happen.

      In response to your points; firstly totally agree, this article was an attempt at helping some people navigate the choppy waters. I wanted to get my message out there, and believed others (like you) would be joining the conversation and we can collectively be part of this process.

      Perhaps my use of the word ‘universally’ is inaccurate. From the readings I have done I would say those who study sexuality would be in broad agreement, but you are right, it is not total. I will perhaps edit this for future.

      We should stand counter-cultural, but I think Christians can use this as a quick throw-out line to anything they disagree with, the old ‘in this world but not of this world’. For me, standing counter cultural means loving our enemies, means turning the other cheek – those are really hard things to do. Judging and mistreating people for sexual orientation is not hard. Also, and this is something I have been mulling over for a while; as it was Jesus who often spoke about being counter-cultural, could the culture we should be ‘countering’ be the manufactured Christian culture?

      I won’t comment much on Gen as I feel ill-equipped, but to paint with broad brush strokes I read a lot of OT stories as allegories, written into a time that would understand them, given some of the reasons I put in my post, to present this story and have anything other than a male and female at the centre of it would have just been confusing. If you are beginning to unpack this stuff, would love to read some of your wisdom on the Genesis account at some point 🙂

      Thanks again Simon,
      Danny

  2. Tim Freeman
    December 2, 2015
    Reply

    It is for sure a big issue facing today’s church! Appreciate your emphasis on love too, its very easy to fall into an ignorant and very un-Jesus-like disdain for anyone that disagrees with us. A little concerned about the Bible as a text to be explained away though?! Revelation is pretty clear about the authority of the Word (Rev 22:19)… if we explain away certain parts of the Bible why not explain away any others that don’t fit with how we/society think? Jesus was pretty down the line on sin, hell and the need to be salt and light in the world. He did love everyone (prostitutes etc) but he wasn’t found in the brothels to love them…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *